A few weeks ago I took several days off from work in order to give myself a head start on holiday preparations. This has become tradition for the past few years, as I tell myself that if only I can work hard and fast enough, get organized, do the wrapping, start the baking, and finish the decorating, my Christmas will be the smooth and tranquil holiday that I know it can be. Things have yet to work out in my favor, but my opinion remains that a head start is better than no head start.
On an afternoon that I was out shopping, I stopped by a large, nationally known crafty home decor store, with the vague idea of finding a garland to dress my mantle. The place was teeming with excited shoppers, poring over crafts and gifts and decor. I made my way to the garland area, which adorned one wall of this large establishment. This was a bustling part of the store, with shoppers, singly or in pairs, examining swags and garlands of simulated spruce and pine cone and berries, hanging in rows going higher and higher up the wall, until they were only accessible by a hook pole.
Suddenly I was unsettled. Unsettled by the excited shoppers, unsettled by the enormity of the place and the contents therein, unsettled by the very girth of these garlands, many as big around as a person’s thigh. And I left that store without the garland, overwhelmed.
I had nothing against the shoppers, the store, the garland, the season. People are excited, and stores carry items that we, after all, buy. I was, however, uncomfortable with what seems to be startling material excess and consumption, and I stop and wonder how it all connects to the spiritual origins of the season.
And therein lies the reason that this season confounds and delights me, as I work ever harder to achieve the balance between doing those things which are expected of me, and doing those things which bring me joy. And throughout the season I teeter between the more mundane tasks of shopping and wrapping, and the more pleasurable practice of baking up a storm and making my house smell like warm cookies. And come Christmas morning, what’s done is done, and I do my best to soak it all in as my children tear excitedly into their gifts.
And still, my favorite day of the year remains this day. This day is when all of the hard work is behind me, and when I can enjoy my time off, admire my gifts, and play with my children. I can make the hot chocolate that I have meant to make for weeks but never gotten around to, and bask in the glow of another Christmas well done, or at least, done as well as I can.
Today I made up for month of sins by going for a long walk and consuming a large plate of lettuce…
…with a few select toppings.
And then later, I clean…
Maybe. I might save this for tomorrow.
Happy holidays to all my friends out there.